ALDF Demands Investigation of Injuries, Deaths at Harvard's New England Primate Research CenterMarch 27th, 2012
Shocking Fatalities Among Monkeys at Lab Prompt Inquiry to Cambridge Public Health Department
For immediate release
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Cotati, Calif. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is asking the Commissioner of Laboratory Animals at the Cambridge Public Health Department to investigate a recent spate of shocking injuries and fatalities among monkeys at Harvard’s New England Primate Research Center, which reveal serious violations of animal welfare laws, including the federal Animal Welfare Act and Massachusetts animal cruelty law. The Cambridge Municipal Code requires the city’s Public Health Department to make unannounced inspections of laboratories that test on animals and to sanction the research institution for any violations of animal welfare laws.
In the past two years, a dead monkey was discovered at the bottom of a cage that had gone through a scalding-hot mechanical washer, and systematic neglect at the Primate Research Center has resulted in additional fatalities caused by dehydration, injuries sustained after escaping a cage, and an overdose of anesthetic. Other incidents at the Center during the same period have caused serious injuries.
“The law is only as good as its enforcement,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Cambridge has a unique law that not only allows, but requires the city to be actively involved in the protection of animals in laboratories. It is high time for Cambridge to take action, before any more monkeys die as a result of the likely-criminal pattern of neglect at Harvard’s lab.”
A copy of ALDF’s letter to the Cambridge Public Health Department’s Commissioner of Laboratory Animals follows.
March 27, 2012
Julie Medley, DVM
Commissioner of Laboratory Animals
Cambridge Public Health Department
119 Windsor St. Ground Level
Cambridge, MA 02139
T: (617) 665-3853
Dear Commissioner Medley:
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is a national non-profit organization with more than 100,000 members and supporters that has been working to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system since 1979. We are writing today to call on you to investigate a series of injuries and fatalities at Harvard’s New England Primate Research Center.
Recent reports reveal serious violations of animal welfare laws starting in June 2010 when a dead monkey was discovered at the bottom of a cage that had gone through a scalding-hot mechanical washer. Since then, the Center’s neglect has resulted in additional fatalities caused by: dehydration, injuries sustained after escaping a cage, and an overdose of anesthetic. Other incidents at the Center during the same period have caused serious injuries that did not result in death. 3] According to news accounts, another primate recently died but was not reported by the Center. The cause of death for this fifth monkey is still unknown.
These incidents reveal a systematic pattern of inexcusable neglect at the Center resulting in extreme animal suffering. This neglect likely violates standards established by the Massachusetts animal cruelty law and the federal Animal Welfare Act. Evidence of these violations provides sufficient cause to invoke your authority under the Cambridge Municipal Code to investigate and sanction the Center.
Chapter 6.12 of the Cambridge Municipal Code grants your office a unique power to protect animals by penalizing laboratories that violate state and federal animal welfare provisions. In order to ensure that labs comply with such animal welfare provisions, the chapter further provides that you “shall make unannounced visits to inspect animal and research facilities as needed.” Upon discovery of violations, you “shall report any violation” to the executive of the research institution and the institution “shall . . . be punished by a fine of three hundred dollars per violation per day.” This ordinance not only authorizes you to investigate the animal neglect at the Center but also imposes a duty to do so.
The USDA’s persistent failure to adequately enforce the Animal Welfare Act provides further impetus for your office to investigate these primate deaths. The USDA has merely recommended changes or imposed nominal fines to “enforce” the Animal Welfare Act in other situations involving similar violations.
Accordingly, I call on you to investigate the inexcusable animal neglect at the Center and sanction the Center to the fullest extent under the law. The primate death reported this week comes nearly two years after the scalding death of a monkey in June 2010 and confirms that the Center will not voluntarily remedy the situation on its own. Since the USDA has a poor track record of enforcing the Animal Welfare Act it falls on your office alone to protect primates housed at the Center. Chapter 6.12 of the Cambridge Municipal Code grants your office ample authority to protect the primates and in fact imposes a mandatory duty to do so.
Thank you for your attention in this matter and please know that the Animal Legal Defense Fund stands ready to assist in any way we can.
Stephen Wells, Executive Director
 Johnson, Carolyn Y., A third monkey death reported at Harvard’s New England Primate Research Center, THE BOSTON GLOBE (Feb. 26, 2012), available online at http://www.boston.com/Boston/whitecoatnotes/2012/02/third-monkey-death-reported-harvard-new-england-primate-research-center/nF01ZZOQ8nBKozj9zocbRP/index.html; Miraval and Robbins, Two Monkeys Die at HMS Research Center, THE HARVARD CRIMSON (March 1, 2012), available online at http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/3/1/monkeys-die-research-center/.
 Johnson, supra note 1; Miraval and Robbins, supra note 1; Mullins, Alisa, Urge NIH to Yank Harvard Funding After Monkey Deaths, THE PETA FILES (March 1, 2012), available online at http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2012/03/01/urge-nih-to-yank-harvard-funding-after-monkey-deaths.aspx.
 Johnson, supra note 1.
 Petrishen, Brad, Animal activist group files complaint against Primate Center (March 22, 2012), THE METROWEST DAILY NEWS, available online at http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/newsnow/x1581724655/Animal-activist-group-files-complaint-against-Primate-Center (last updated March 22, 2012).
 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 77.
 7 U.S.C. §§ 2131, et seq.
 Cambridge Mun. Code § 6.12.040.
 Cambridge Mun. Code § 6.12.080 (emphasis added).
 Cambridge Mun. Code §§ 6.12.070, 6.12.090 (emphases added).
 See Stanley, Valerie, "The Animal Welfare Act and USDA: Time for an Overhaul", 16 PACE ENVTL. L. REV. 103 (1998); Swanson, Katharine M., “Carte Blanche for Cruelty: The Non-Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act”, 35 U. MICH. J.L. REFORM 937 (2001-2002).